Foreman is just biggest in a weekend of upsets

November 07, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

There probably have been bigger upset weekends than the one we just went through, but certainly none leap to mind.

I mean, George Foreman, or "King Con" as his commentator buddy Larry Merchant referred to him during HBO's pre-fight hype, winning a heavyweight championship from Michael Moorer with two pulverizing right hands late in the fight. And, oh yeah, Big George is 45 years old.

Just as improbable, but on a local and minor scale, is the Washington Bullets winning their first two games on back-to-back evenings, one on the road, against very good teams, the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls.

Then there was Concern, ever the bridesmaid, coming on from dead last to win the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic, and One Dreamer, eighth choice in a field of just nine, taking the Breeders' Distaff while leading every step of the mile and an eighth.

In college football, the teams rated 9-10-12-13-16-19 in the AP's Top 25 got stung, but that's only slightly out of the usual come November.

Incredible. Is nothing predictable anymore? Does previous form mean anything? Is the federal government going for the biggest upset of all, balancing its budget, any time soon?

The surprise, the reversal, the overthrow, is what whets the appetites of countless fans and keeps them clamoring for more.

Yes, it was huge when Randy Turpin beat Sugar Ray Robinson, Ingemar Johansson flattened Floyd Patterson and -- there's that name again -- George Foreman dribbled Smokin' Joe Frazier around a Kingston, Jamaica, ring as if he were a basketball. That Foreman was a huge and scowling menace just turned 24 who had allowed 37 previous foes to survive an average of just three rounds against him. The 8-1 odds against him were out of whack.

He quit a few years after that, stayed out of sight for a decade and, since his return to the ring in 1987, gave very little indication that he should be taken seriously, considering some of the men he fought.

George seemed comfortable fostering the image that he was just a big, smiling, happy-go-lucky guy who loved everybody and thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of endorsements for car mufflers and whacking down a half-dozen cheeseburgers for lunch.

Foreman's popularity was such that he got a title shot against Evander Holyfield in 1991, back in the days when there was just one champion, and everyone figured he had achieved his goal and would quit. The public didn't allow it, however.

It wasn't the manner in which Foreman knocked out the previously unbeaten Moorer that amazed. Rather, it was that George had taken a pounding for so long (nine rounds), yet still carried his strength and focus into Round No. 10.

George's right hand moves with all the speed of a glacier, but when its properly cocked and, as he says, "I get some body English into it," the effect can be paralyzing. Especially if the bull's eye is the point of the chin. Moorer concurs.

The Bullets, who have made 50-loss seasons look so easy the last few years, stepped out of character in the home opener against Shaquille O'Neal and Friends. Able to slip ahead by a point after three periods, it looked all for naught when Orlando went on a 12-2 run.

Recall, Washington and the fourth quarter have long gotten along like the man negotiating the contract for top draft pick Juwan Howard and Bullets general manager John Nash. But that's before Jim Lynam moved in as the coach.

Already, the new man has given indication he'll get a lot more out of his bench than his predecessor, Wes Unseld, did. And, for the first time in years, the team has an honest-to-goodness point guard, Scott Skiles, and two men, an in-better-shape Kevin Duckworth and the moving tower of Transylvania Gheorghe Muresan, who together can hold their own offensively and defensively in the pivot.

A couple of games do not a playoff team make, but two wins without your leading scorer (Don MacLean, blisters) and no No. 5 pick (Howard) are not to be sneezed at. Not with this franchise.

While solid favorites Lure, Sky Beauty, Paradise Creek, Devil His Due, Best Pal, Hollywood Wildcat and Cat Appeal were finishing far up the track at the Breeders' Cup, some areas of sport held to established pattern: Maryland's footballers continued to talk a better game than they play, our CFL Waverly Wonders staged one of their stinkers in Sacramento, Virginia's late-season fade is officially under way and a Mexican (German Silva) won the New York City Marathon.

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